East High School flip-flopped Tuesday night. East now doesn't want its hard-fought-for 3A athletic classification if it has to travel to Logan for games.
For two years, East unsuccessfully lobbied the board of directors of the Utah High School Activities Association, urging that East be downgraded from a 4A to 3A classification. East parents and administrators argued that with the school's dwindling enrollment after the redrawing of the city's high school boundaries, that East more logically and fairly fit with the smaller 3A schools.Last month East appealed to the association's 42-member legislative council, which is made up from school board members from across the state, and narrowly won permission to switch to 3A. But the council left East's placement in a region to the board of directors. East expected to be put in Region 6, which includes longtime rival West, Bountiful, Granite, Murray, Judge Memorial, Jordan, Woods Cross and Tooele.
What East got was Region 5. It comprises Ben Lomond, Ogden, Bear River, Sky View, Mountain Crest, Logan and Box Elder.
At East then, red became more than just a school color.
"When we heard about the Region 5 decision, we were incensed almost beyond reason," parent spokesman Clark Campbell told the Salt Lake Board of Education on Tuesday night.
Salt Lake School Superintendent John W. Bennion, in explaining the directors' action to the school board, added: "There doesn't seem to be any good reason for putting East in Region 5. . . . Some of us think that their latest decision was a little bit of sour grapes by the board of directors."
But Glenn Beere, executive director of the high school activities association, told the Deseret News before the school board meeting that the directors' decision was a practical one. "They chose to equalize the regions. Instead of having nine in Region 6 and seven in Region 5, they decided to have eight in each region."
He also said the Region 6 placement would have had a ripple effect, disrupting already-scheduled preseason games at a number of schools.
Beere said the directors did consider the distances involved, but "as you know, there are schools that travel much farther."
East was expected to ask the school board to appeal again to the legislative council. Legislative Council Chairman Lynn Davidson said Tuesday afternoon that he was willing to call a special meeting, but "I couldn't guess what the council would do."
East's Campbell could. He had called about half of the council members in the past two days. "We haven't got the votes. We're not even close. I didn't find one person who wanted to get us in Region 6."
He said that thumbs-down assessment included every principal in Region VI.
"I found more than a few frustrated at what they perceived as our arrogance and special treatment," Campbell said.
So, the East PTA, East Community Council and Booster Club voted unanimously Tuesday to request a move back to 4A, with the understanding that the school will apply again next year for 3A designation. The activities association, which will get a new governing board in July, is expected to realign the regions next year.
The school board unanimously backed East's request.
Wednesday, Davidson said East probably will move back to 4A. "Our assumption based on conversations with legislative council members is that there won't be any objections."
He said council members will be polled by phone this week.
Davidson also said he doesn't believe East's maneuvers will hurt the school politically with the association "one little bit. I can't imagine anyone holding a grudge against anyone. East is trying to do what's best for its students. The board of directors was trying to do what's best for all the students in the state. I don't think anyone will punish them at all."